Propane marketer boosts dispenser business with help from summit partner

May 12, 2023 By    
Jeff Vandemark, co-owner of IPS, meets with retailers at the LP Gas Growth Summit.

Jeff Vandemark, co-owner of IPS, meets with retailers at the LP Gas Growth Summit. (Photo by LP Gas staff)

Mike Hayden can easily lead any discussion on serendipity. When his company, Co-Alliance Cooperative Inc. in Indianapolis, entered the autogas business eight years ago, he met the right people just weeks before he needed them.

Until then, Co-Alliance – a $1.4 billion agricultural and energy cooperative owned by farmers – had been selling propane to the Indiana Department of Transportation for state government vehicles, but the company didn’t provide propane infrastructure. Then, in 2015, a local school district, looking to save on fuel costs, switched from diesel to autogas-powered buses. The district turned to Co-Alliance for help with the transition, and Co-Alliance suddenly needed to determine which autogas dispenser was best for the fleet.

Mike Hayden


That’s when Hayden, director of propane with Co-Alliance, remembered meeting the owners of Industrial Propane Service Inc. (IPS) earlier in 2015 at the first LP Gas Growth Summit. IPS, a family-owned business headquartered in Byron, Michigan, designs and builds autogas dispensing systems and propane bulk plants.

At the summit, which brings propane retailers and industry partners together to network and possibly form partnerships, IPS told Hayden about how it adapts autogas dispensing systems for the unique needs of individual customers.

“I could tell they did business a lot like we do, based on building customer relationships,” Hayden says. “And right out of the gate, they were pretty transparent with pricing. I felt like I could trust them, like they could be a partner with us in a business we wanted to grow.”

Eight years later, IPS is still Co-Alliance’s exclusive supplier of autogas dispensers. In turn, Co-Alliance provides those dispensing systems to schools, public and private transit organizations, and law enforcement agencies.

Hayden says Co-Alliance, before committing to IPS, checked out other autogas dispenser distributors, but IPS held the advantage.

“We had built a relationship with them at the summit,” Hayden says. “In addition to their focus on customers, they use all premium products and do a superior job in designing and assembling the dispensing systems.

“That allows us to install a foolproof system that has been widely appreciated and accepted, and has allowed us to grow our business,” Hayden says.

Kim Godlewski


IPS Vice President Kim Godlewski, who owns IPS with her brothers Jeff and Rob Vandemark, praises Co-Alliance for its professionalism.

“They have been a great partner to work with,” Godlewski says of Co-Alliance. “In the beginning, we had some issues to work through getting the dispensers to work properly for the application. But we worked together and gained their trust that our systems are reliable, and we would be there to help every step of the way.”

Hayden says IPS’ problem-solving ability is one of the qualities he appreciates about the company.

“Everybody has problems,” Hayden says. “It’s how you react when there’s a customer who runs out of gas, or there’s a leak, or there’s a problem with a dispenser. It’s the company that responds quickly; that’s the one you want to do business with. And that’s been my experience with IPS.”

Godlewski likes that Hayden, like IPS, is involved in propane associations and participates on committees that aim to grow autogas gallons for the industry. She says both companies are industry focused.

Hayden credits the LP Gas Growth Summit for bringing Co-Alliance and IPS together. He says the event allowed for undisturbed time with each summit partner, and Co-Alliance and IPS had a chance to share each other’s histories and talk about conducting business in the Midwest.

“Normally a sales call is quick, somebody is trying to sell you something,” Hayden says. “They stop by the office for two minutes, you’re busy and they drop off a flyer. At the summit, we had time to sit down and just talk and see if it was going to be a good fit.”

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